Thursday, June 18, 2009

"A series of unplanned good outcomes": Beyl on life

Now that the transcript from the oral history interview with Cecille O. (Sunderland) Beyl, MD has been fully edited, we can share some of the wonderful tidbits from Dr. Beyl's look back over her life and career, which she characterizes as "a series of unplanned good outcomes":

On choosing medicine
BEYL: Yeah. Actually my mother, my mother wanted me to be a doctor. She kept talking to me about that. So my pursuing and considering other things was more a rebellion against that. And then I realized, I think that’s probably what I want to do. It’s hard to know exactly why we make these decisions.

DESAI: Sure. Sure.

BEYL: And that’s why I feel very fortunate that I did make that decision. Because, and even though this sounds rather emotional, I’m really sincere when I say I feel so fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be a doctor, with a life of constant learning, constant challenges, constant thinking. And also make a difference in the world and help people. And you know, when I started in this, I wasn’t thinking in terms of being in an academic position all my life. But in reality, I feel very fortunate that that is the way that my professional life was directed, because in an academic position, one, I’m constantly interacting with my colleagues. And there is a certain amount of peer review that goes on with that. And I’m not saying that in a negative way. We were constantly challenging each other to stimulate thinking, and encourage new ideas in ourselves and in our colleagues. And it’s this constant interaction, so that I’ve been constantly teaching, constantly doing research, presenting papers at meetings. I feel very fortunate that that is how my life direction went.
On medical education at OHSU
BEYL: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s true everywhere, which then leads me to here at OHSU. And this is also what I tell medical students whom I interview who are applying to medical school here. One of the things that all of us medical students felt in Syracuse at that time, was that teaching was not a high priority. And in many ways, we felt that we were in the way. And it wasn’t just I as a woman medical student; it was all of us. And that the professors really were focused on their teaching efforts and so forth on the subspecialty fellows, and so forth.

And when I started here in 1967, and of course I was in pediatric cardiology, what impressed me was the concern for teaching, the focus on teaching, that everybody was important. And this included medical students, nursing students. I mean, even the public. So that the medical students and the faculty were in a collegial relationship. And what that did, that collegial relationship meant medical students didn’t have to compete with each other. You know when I was going to medical school, there was this old tradition of you have to see who’s going to fail so that the others will remain. That wasn’t the philosophy here. It was a collegial relationship, which makes for a more positive learning environment. And this is part of also what I tell medical students, you know, the applicants to medical school, that we have a collegial relationship.

And actually I and others of my colleagues became good friends with medical students when I was pediatric attending. At the end of the rotation, I would take my team on a hike. [laughs] Somebody was talking about that the other day, whom I met someplace, I don’t remember where. But it’s a collegial relationship. And I think that’s very special to OHSU. And I think, it wasn’t called OHSU in those days. But I think that dedication to teaching continues.
On OHSU as a pioneering medical center
PIASECKI: So when you came to OHSU, did you have a sense in the ‘60s that it was a place that was an exciting place to be?

BEYL: Yes.

PIASECKI: It sounds like you did.

BEYL: Yeah. No, I mean even before I came here, I knew that it was an exciting place to be for a couple of things. One was the primary intracardiac repair in early infancy of tetralogy. The Starr-Edwards valve was well known. I remember as a medical student in Syracuse, a woman came in that they brought in when I was a medical student, and she had a Hufnagel valve. I don’t know if you’ve even, did you ever hear of the Hufnagel valve?

DESAI: I have.

BEYL: I mean, it was a valve placed in the sort of the aortic arch, a little bit proximal to the aortic arch, for a severe aortic insufficiency. You could hear this valve across the room. But the woman was alive, anyway. Albert and Edwards sort of figured out this valve, and it revolutionized the treatment of aortic valve disease in adults. So of course I’d heard of that. And of course I worked with Albert and the other surgeons who came and worked with Albert. I don’t remember if I was taller than he, or he taller than I. [laughter]
As always, the full transcript will be available through the OHSU Main Library after processing (indexing, abstracting, cataloging) is complete.

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